{in theatres} Skyfall

November 10, 2012 by sarah

I’ll admit I’m no Bond expert. I’ve yet to read the books. I don’t have a favorite 20th century Bond film. I’ve gotten my spy kicks from Alias, Mi-5 and the Bourne books and movies. I think my lack of Bond love is partly because I was introduced to the franchise as a teenager during the Pierce Brosnan era. Nothing against Mr. Brosnan. I just wasn’t old enough to understand the context of the campy humor, and, unlike Mindy Kaling, I didn’t get the crush appeal of the star. (I was more of a Brad Pitt teenager.)

So I started to come around to the series with 2006′s Casino Royale. And not just because this time I did get the crush appeal of the star, Daniel Craig. I swear. I liked Casino Royale and its successor, 2008′s Quantum of Solace, because Bond went dark. The films were post-modern, and (literally) deathly serious. (Plus, parkour!) I tend to like my heroes complex, and the first two films of the reboot delivered in that arena.

So with Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road to Perdition, Revolutionary Road) at the helm of Skyfall, and two of the same Bond-veteran writers onboard (Neal Purvis and Robert Wade) I was expecting another shadow-side Bond. And I got it. But what Mendes and company also delivered were moments of genuine lightness and self-aware humor that balanced out the grit. (At one point, the new Q quips “You were expecting an exploding pen? We don’t really go in for that anymore.”)

That light-dark combination plus some seriously beautiful cinematography (by Roger Deakins) made Skyfall one truly enjoyable action film. I was gasping (but quietly so as to not bother my fellow movie goers) at some of the shots, particularly of a fight that takes place in a Shanghai high-rise with neon jellyfish gliding by and some wide Scotland landscape vistas. Mendes also makes good use of silhouettes throughout the entire film, with Craig’s athletic form (and those ears!) highlighted against open doorways, water and fire. I tried counting the silhouette shots, but I lost count. Let me know your tally!

The action sequences were stylish and follow-able, the plot (for the most part) clips right along, and two strong female characters (Judi Dench‘s M and Naomie Harris‘s Eve) balance out the obligatory Bond machismo. You get all this and Javier Bardem’s ridiculously entertaining villain, Silva. Bardem has that innate charisma and believability that can make a long villain monologue breathtaking instead of cliché. And in this case, he does it in one long shot while walking toward the camera and introducing a repeating metaphor comparing Bond and himself to carnivorous rats. It’s one of the film’s best moments, and it took serious acting chops to pull it off.

The one sour note for me was a throwaway line implying good scotch is worth more than a woman’s life. (I’m a fan of scotch, too, but, come on, now.) Whether it was meant as bravado or not, it discolors the rest of the film’s otherwise impressive strides to bring women into equal standing in the Bond world.

That said, if you’re looking for a stylishly executed, well-balanced Bond installment, Skyfall is your ticket. Adele even says so.

Gimme Five

This section just named by Beth!

Good for: Action fans and connoisseurs of well-made blockbusters

Invite your: Anybody. Really. This is a blockbuster for a reason. Everyone from film snobs (Mendes!) to your Mom (Daniel Craig!) will have a good time.

Snack on: (do I even need to say it?) Martinis. Shaken, not stirred (the film nods to the tradition without saying the line).  

Bring your: Bond-trivia-obsessed friend to help you catch all the inside jokes. I know I missed quite a few.

Skip if: You’re just not into action. Or Daniel Craig. (This is an extremely small portion of the population.)

Which Bond were you first introduced to? 

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About sarah

Sarah Magill has a full-time movie habit made possible by a day-time greeting card writing gig. She blogs at Gimme Some Film and is learning to write scripts and direct. She tries to balance her screen obsession with trail running, jazz singing, book clubbing, and hanging out with The Best Golden Retriever Ever, Copa.

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38 thoughts on “{in theatres} Skyfall

  1. Oh and SPOILER ALERT for my comment below. Gosh, I did it too.

    - DavidH

  2. I am waaaay late to this conversation, but I finally just saw the movie tonight. It’s certainly my least favorite of the Daniel Craig Bonds. It was just too predictable. The moment Silva untied Bond, I knew it was his plan to be captured and taken to the HQ. How did Bond not see that? Was I supposed to buy that 1 gun to Bond’s head was going to keep him from kicking butt? Because obviously Silva didn’t think so either.

    While Silva was in his planned captivity, I was just waiting for his clever escape.

    And then, when he did escape, it was just one strange coincidence after another. Either that or Silva could predict the future. Can one’s years-in-the-making plan really hinge on the punctuality of public transportation? And if he was able to blow up the most secure office on the planet, and plant a bomb in the tubes undetected in a post 911 world, why didn’t he just blow up the courthouse? Instead, he marched in the front door with a handgun.

    And instead of chartering a helicopter at the end, why not buy a missile launcher and obliterate the house?

    The movie started off with a bang. I loved the first hour. And I even think Bardem was brilliant, with the material available to him. That long walky talky entrance was pretty impressive, Sarah. But at the same time, I couldn’t help but laugh at the tiny baby steps he was taking to clearly give himself more time to get all the words out. The movie kind of steadily went downhill after that.

    It also could’ve lost 20 or 30 mins. I liked Q a lot in this, but at the same time, most of his sections were really boring. The blue poly-algorithmic-super-double encoded rubiks cube that fights back thing on the giant computer screen was dumb. And when Bond – not Q, the super computer genius – solves it after 20 seconds of looking at it, I was like, um, can’t you tell this is part of Silva’s plan? Probably shouldn’t…awe…you did it, you dumb super genius…

    Roger’s pretty spot on, especially regarding the end sequence. During the final 30 mins. I just kept thinking, “Wow. I’d love to own a giant old house like that.”

    And also, “Wow, I thought Albert Finney was dead. But he’s not! Hooray! I love Albert Finney!”

    - DavidH

    • All those points are totally valid. Maybe I need to raise my expectations for logic in Bond films : ) I was just like “ooooooh! pretty silhouettes!”

      - sarah

      • I don’t think you should change anything, S! Notice, no one is complaining about the fact that he was shot twice and fell a thousand feet into a raging river, then over a waterfall, and lived to “die another day.” I don’t know what the right recipe is when walking the line of believability. But, for me, the previous 2 Craig Bonds raised my expectations, as did this one’s amazing cinematography and quippy, smart dialog. The first part sets me up for a very clever and intelligent story. The second part (story-wise) kind of said “screw you” to the first part. And suddenly, Albert Finney saying “Welcome to Scotland” was too much like “Hasta la vista, baby.”

        - DavidH

  3. SPOILER ALERTS

    I interpreted the scotch line differently. Bond’s experience on the island was all about Silva trying to get under his skin and unnerve him — to do anything, including flirting with the macho, womanizing Bond, to rattle him. At each attempt, Bond has to parry and make it seem like no big thing. (Hence his response to Silva’s come-on: “What makes you think it would be my first time?”) I feel like the line about a waste of scotch was a similar parry. He can’t show weakness to Silva, who is so adept at mental games. So I don’t feel like his response is necessarily reflective of his actual feelings or meant to appear to the audience to be. Of course, that doesn’t alleviate the scene of the usual Bond misogynistic view of women as objects, in that Severine’s death has little to do with Severine and everything to do with Bond and Silva.
    I think the Bond films make clear, and the events after Casino Royale make clearer, why Bond has such as detachment from the women he has sex with. He fell in love once, she died and he was unable to protect her. In the Bond world, not showing emotions is manly. So instead of grieving and eventually trying to find another woman to fall in love with, he exacts revenge and shuts himself off emotionally. That way, he can’t be hurt by the women and, more importantly, no villain can use the women to hurt him. The scene in question is sort of the culmination of that transformation and sets up that “classic” Bond trait you see in the earlier movies. But I don’t think his lack of attachment is necessarily the same as completely not caring. Though there is plenty of objectification to be sure.

    - Brian

    • This is a really good argument. Totally see your point. Wish that Mendes and Craig would have give us just a little bit more of a clue that it was a parry to help ease my feminist angst! Great thoughts on the way Casino Royale plays into Bond’s psyche. You are hereby invited to co-author the treatise fellow commenter Nathan and are are (fake) planning to write, The Progression and Regression of Feminist Themes in the Daniel-Craig-era Bond Films.

      - sarah

      • A bit behind on this discussion but I finally had the opportunity to see this last night and wanted to chime in. I thought it was a fun, exciting watch, but the main thought in my mind for the majority of the movies was, “How many STDs does James Bond have?” Dude just doesn’t seem like the type that practices wise or safe sex.

        As someone who has only seen the Daniel Craig Bond films, the objectification of women/womanizing is distracting enough to put me off the whole series. Brian’s explanation here of the “scotch line” helps me understand it a bit more, but what about character growth? The series from movie to movie isn’t structured to allow for very much.

        The script even subjected this film’s Bond “woman,” Naomie Harris, to quite a bit of ogling, groping, and that weird shave scene. Can’t the fact that she can hold her own in an extended chase scene be enough?

        - Shanna

        • I thought about calculating the percentage of STD likelihood by looking at infection rates and average partners per movie, but then I thought…hey, I have to write a post about another movie for tomorrow ; ) I think the shaving scene was meant to both be some kind of sexy and to show that Bond might actually have the capacity to trust someone. But, yeah…the films’ whiplash view of women deserves more discussion.

          - sarah

      • Haha. I’m in!

        - Brian

  4. Oh also I heard that a KC production company created the opening credits film/animation. True?

    - Maux

  5. Great review, Sarah. My favorite moment was the opening action scene when Bond, on a motorcycle, runs himself full speed into the wall of a bridge in order to catapult himself onto a moving train. I about stood up and cheered aloud at that moment. Also those jellyfish! That was an extremely captivating scene.

    I’ve always loved the Bond films, going back to the Sean Connery era…but agree that I didn’t get truly excited about them until Daniel Craig. Pierce Brosnan was good for playing up the British class aspect of the role, but was a little dainty for my personal Bond-preference. :)

    - Maux

    • That motorcycle moment was so great. I want to go back and re-watch it to figure out what made the way they cut it so visceral. I mean, it felt like you were hitting the bridge rail with him. It was a movie-joy moment. We should come up with some theatre-appropriate (i.e. silent) fist-pumping reactions to use in moments like those.

      And, yes, dainty. Exactly.

      - sarah

    • ha! i wonder how brosnan would feel about being described as “dainty”. :)

      - bet

  6. I’m going to go see Skyfall in a couple of hours. Thanks for writing this review…it made me 10x more excited to go see it! Love your film page and your new website! Congrats!

    - Haley @ The Girly Girl Cooks

  7. Oh man, I’m with Ali on the Daniel Craig poster! :)

    - LIz

  8. you make some good points here, and overall i thought it was a fun film, but i didn’t like several of the choices. SPOILER ALERTS!

    this movie made some clear choices trying to show that james bond as an agent (and, more importantly, a franchise) was still relevant. but that wasn’t necessary. true, the daniel craig ‘bond’ is a grittier, earthier, more human ‘bond’, but i didn’t like the choice this time around of making him and M into outdated relics only to later show that they were not only relevant but necessary. having bond recover from injuries is a classic movie arc, but the point of bond has always been that he’s timeless, transcending his villains with cool gadgets, slick tactics and wits, and this movie made him out to be ‘behind the times’ and on the verge of being sent out to pasture. where were the high tech gadgets, the forward thinking technology cleverly implemented at opportune moments? giving him a pistol and a teeny transmitter was all but sentencing him to death while simultaneously screaming PLOT DEVICE. sure they implored some gadget-and-tactic stuff in the ‘last stand’ battle at the end, but those were still ‘old school’ gadgets and tactics, and not before having him abandoned by the agency and the country he’s defended for his entire career. (where the heck was backup during the third act??) the movie went out of its way to show that bond was an agent’s agent. but when has that even been up for debate?

    true. it’s a bond film, i know, so suspensions of disbelief are par for the course, but some plot issues really pulled me out of the film…

    ‘here, let me plug this computer from a known super cyberterrorist and computer hacking wizard directly into our makeshift network. i mean, what could possibly go wrong?’

    ‘rather than taking a clean kill shot when we’re alone (again), let me give a quippy monologue (again) to give you time to get away (again).’

    ‘look! here’s the rough-hewn tunnel under the moor that we will all conveniently escape through when the bad guys show up!’

    ‘look! here’s the ‘old school’ knife we will use to kill the super high-tech villain after a (literally) nuts and bolts last stand! see the clever contrast? see what we did there?’

    overall, sure, i’d recommend it. it was a nice time at the movies. but the movie lacked pace and panache for me (though it had sprinkles of both) and tried to hard to make a case it didn’t need to make.

    - roger

    • All super valid points, Roger! I tend to like the theme of old-dogs-conquering-new-villains-with-old-tricks theme. Sure, it’s been done before, but I don’t mind cheering for it again. I actually like that they left out the gadgets, but I don’t have strong loyalties or expectations for that part of the franchise. You’re not alone in that complaint; I’ve heard it bouncing around the internets! Yep, suspension of disbelief is necessary for Bond films. I rather like shutting mine off when I feel secure that there’s going to be an entertainment payoff big enough in the end.

      - sarah

  9. Call me a male pig, but I loved the part that bothered you most, Sarah. It was classic Bond for me and played well in this film which was loaded with meta references to the Bond cannon. It is sexist, for sure, but I guess that is part of what makes Bond who he is.

    SPOILER ALERT!

    I do agree that I enjoyed the fleshing out of M and allowing her character to have such a prominent role. Was good to see Bond show emotion and be moved by another person’s death. My hope is that the character of Moneypenny sticks around and they allow her to grow and become as round a character as M was this film.

    All that to say, I still liked the scotch part.

    - Nathan

    • aghk!! nathan, you didn’t even write SPOILER ALERT. now i think i know something i didn’t want to know before i saw it. but don’t tell me that i’m right because i’m going to pretend i’m not and be surprised [and sad] anyway.

      - bet

      • OK, new rule. In Gimme Some Film comments, we will all try our best not to spoil things, but if you think you might, “Spoiler Alert” or “Possible Spoiler Alert” warnings are appreciated! Apologies, Beth!

        - sarah

    • Male pig! Just kidding. I was wondering how that line would sound to other people. I tend to be pretty sensitive when it comes to possible misogyny in movies. Filmmaking has historically been a heavily male-driven art form to the degree that we women have come to expect it, ignore it and sometimes even join in it. Raising the red flag is my way of fighting that apathy. I agree that the comment is in line with Bond’s character. Is it wishful thinking that he’ll evolve into a feminist?

      - sarah

  10. ha! i’m still giggling about the ears comment, and i don’t even know why. :)

    can’t wait to see this film! that image alone tells me the cinematography will be a stunner.

    and yes, i am totally with you on not being interested in the slightest until the first craig version. those opening sequences astounded me–i couldn’t believe how much action they packed into the first few minutes.

    - bet

    • That was something else I wanted to write about but thought I was getting too wordy: The super-packed opening action. That will be a post someday: Favorite action sequences. I already know something from the first Bourne, that Bond parkour scene, and the Prometheus robot surgery nightmare will be on there!

      - sarah

  11. Oh my goodness. That Daniel Craig poster!!! :)

    - ali